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After a brief trial of strength between the government, headed by [Captain Michel Micombero-279], and the King, the monarchy was formally abolished on November 28, 1966, making Ntare’s reign the shortest in the history of the country.

With the advent of the First Republic and the appointment of a predominantly Tutsi government, Tutsi elements became dominant in the army and the government, while Hutu elites were virtually denied participation in the institutions of the State.

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By 1967, out of nine provincial governors, only one was a Hutu; the mayors (administrateurs communaux), likewise, were overwhelmingly Tutsi. The steady rise of Hutu-Tutsi enmities, accompanied by the more or less systematic exclusion of Hutu from the institutions of government, must be seen as a central element in the background of the 1972 killings.

Their timing, however, draws attention to another underlying fault-line.

While Rwanda crossed the threshold of independence as a Hutu-controlled republic, until 1966 Burundi stood as a constitutional monarchy ruled by a government of mixed origins.

These contrasting itineraries have had a profoundly divisive impact on the society of Burundi.

Yet, to this day, scholars disagree as to whether the 1972 killings should be described as a double genocide, a selective genocide, a genocide or a case of ethnic cleansing run amok.

Despite the wealth of data made available by recent research (Chrétien and Dupaquier, 2007) many of the questions raised by these tragic events defy a simple answer.To properly grasp the complexity of the events leading to the carnage, something must be said of the regional context.Burundi has many things in common with Rwanda besides a one hundred kilometer boundary: both States share strikingly similar ethnic configurations, social customs and languages.Nonetheless, there is nothing in the country’s turbulent history comparable to the scale of the 1972 killings.Although the number of victims will never be known, estimates range between 150,000 to 300,000 (Kiraranganya, 1985: 76) To reduce a complicated drama to its simplest common denominator, the vast majority of those killed were of Hutu origins, representing approximately 80 per cent of a total population then numbering approximately four million; the perpetrators were drawn overwhelmingly from the Tutsi minority, accounting for some 15 per cent of the population, its representatives holding full control over the armed forces and the government.And while both have experienced frightening levels of ethnic violence, the 1972 drama never received anything approaching the extensive media exposure generated by the far more devastating Rwanda genocide.